Mexico Negotiates with Merck, Pfizer for “COVID-19 Pills”By Alfonso Núñez | Wed, 01/19/2022 - 10:41
Mexico’s Deputy Minister of Health Hugo López-Gatell announced today that the country is negotiating with Merck and Pfizer to acquire and distribute molnupiravir and paxlovid, the approved medicines for treating patients with COVID-19.
After the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) approved both molnupiravir and paxlovid for treating COVID-19 patients, the government has set its sights on acquiring the medicines and distributing them among the country’s most vulnerable groups. These medicines are scarce worldwide despite the extremely high demand during the peak of Omicron spread.
The oral antiviral pills, which can be administered without a hospital visit, can reduce severe risks of COVID-19 such as death and hospitalization by 30 percent, in the case of molnupiravir, and 88 percent, in the case of paxlovid, if taken within the first few days of contracting the virus. Because of their current scarcity, use is limited to the groups most vulnerable to COVID-19 complications, such as those with weakened immune systems, seniors and transplant patients.
Mexico is the first and only country in Latin America to have already approved the emergency use of the medicines through the public healthcare system but not for widespread use through pharmacies or private hospitals. Jaime Fandiño Izundegui, COVID-19 specialist, Hospital Español, predicts the pills will have a similar impact to that of oseltamivir for treating the flu.
The Mexican government has not clarified how many pills it hopes to acquire through negotiations, but predicts the medicine will arrive in the country as early as February. But already, fake and dangerous imitations of molnupiravir have emerged in the black market.
These counterfeits were produced by companies Merit, Molaz and Azista, instead of molnupiravir’s manufacturer Merck. One of those is sold as “MPIRAVIR” in white and black boxes containing 40 pills of 200 mg. Those pills are not approved by COFEPRIS, which has named them a risk for those who use them because their effects have not been approved for medical use.
The desperation to access a treatment for the virus comes as cases have risen by over 200 percent during the past week as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads. Even with a lower risk for complications, hospitals are once again starting to fill up and deaths to increase. Health experts expect that 50 percent of the country will have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 by the end of the fourth wave.